Saturday Single No. 46

Originally posted December 15, 2007

I don’t do much with Christmas music, either as a listener or a collector. We have a few CDs of holiday music, both current and traditional, but we rarely play them; the same goes with the few traditional LPs I have. It’s not like the Texas Gal and I are auditioning for the roles of Scrooge and Scroogette or anything like that – we celebrate the holidays with our families and everything. We just don’t do it with the soundtrack most people have.

As the season approached, I began to wonder what I would do to mark it here at Echoes In The Wind. Of the 20,000 or so mp3s I have in the player, only three could be classified at all as seasonal. (I’ve since grabbed a few that I like at some of the blogs I visit, most notably from the Three Under The Tree series at AM, Then FM.) So it’s not like I have a wide range of stuff readily available.

I could, of course, dip into the vinyl I have, as I do love some of the traditional Christmas songs and carols. Not many pieces are as melodically beautiful as “O Holy Night,” and the chromatic harmonies in “O Little Town of Bethlehem” are also a treat to my ears. But I’ve decided that holiday music, in general, doesn’t move me enough to do that. I’ll share the three pieces I truly love over the next week and let other bloggers dig deeper into the Yuletide canon.

Back in 1963, when Phil Spector was atop the recording world with his Wall of Sound and his stable of groups and performers – the Ronettes, the Crystals, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans and Darlene Love (he’d begin to work with the Righteous Brothers in the next year) – he put together his famous A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector. The record offered listeners holiday songs performed by those singers and groups and backed by the studio musicians who helped Spector create his Wall of Sound. Among those musicians were Sonny Bono, Jimmy Bond, Jack Nitzsche, Leon Russell, Tommy Tedesco and drummer Hal Blaine.

Of the thirteen songs on the record, only one was custom-written for the album, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” a tune written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Spector himself. Spector’s plan was to have the Ronettes record the song. But – according to numerous sources I’ve seen – All-Music Guide gives Darlene Love as its source – lead singer Ronnie Bennett (who was also Spector’s girlfriend and later his wife) was unable to find the power and emotion Spector wanted in the song’s vocal. So Spector had Love sing the song.

Love’s performance of the song is the best on an album full of great performances, and the song has become one of the enduring pop anthems of the holiday season (and is further secured in that place by Love’s annual performance of the song on David Letterman’s late-night television show). So here’s Darlene Love and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” today’s Saturday Single.

Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” [1963]


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